Editor’s note: This was provided by Chaplain Darrell Williams. Contact him at 423-312-4752.
A quarter of a century ago, the soldiers of the 24th Infantry Division answered the call of the nation and went to war, first to defend Saudi Arabia and then to liberate Kuwait by defeating the Iraqi Army.
There were predictions thatcasualties could be as high as 30 percent, yet they stood side by side determined to accomplish the mission and bring each other home. In an outstanding performance of professionalism and leadership, the Victory Division lived up to its name and accomplished the mission with lighting speed as the “point of the spear” of Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
War is never without cost. Sixteen Taro Leaf soldiers paid the ultimate price for freedom during the Persian Gulf War. Many others were wounded, and even more came home with unexplained illnesses and the hidden wounds of post-traumatic stress disorder. It is to these men and women that the nation owes a debt of gratitude and remembrance. Each made a commitment; each soldier signed the dotted line to serve, protect and defend even to the point of death.
Veterans of the mighty 24th Infantry Division are gathering through Sunday at Fort Stewart to commemorate the silver anniversary of Desert Storm. During the five-day reunion, which began Wednesday, many activities and events are being planned to foster social interaction, remembering and celebrating, educational sessions on PTSD, suicide prevention and Gulf War syndrome. A presentation on the National Desert Storm Memorial will also be provided.
The Victory Division will reunite to remember the sacrifices of the fallen at a memorial ceremony at 11 a.m. Friday at the Gulf War Memorial. Former division commander Gen. Barry McCaffrey will be the keynote speaker. Catherine Alaniz-Simonds, widow of Spc. Andy Alaniz, killed in action, will also speak, and the 3rd ID Band will play patriotic songs, “Amazing Grace” and “Taps.” The memorial ceremony will be the highlight of the reunion and include honoring our fallen with a memorial wreath and dedication of a memorial bench. A special reunion fund is available for those who would like to support the veterans in reuniting, and all contributions are sincerely appreciated. For the full reunion itinerary and more information on reunion activities and registration, go to Facebook.com/24thIDreunion or Des ertStorm24ID.com.
“The 24th ID Reunion Task Forces extends our sincere appreciation to the Fort Stewart Public Affairs Office, 3rd Infantry Division commander and staff, and the entire Hinesville community for their part in helping this important and historic reunion take place. Taro Leaf veterans of the Gulf War will always consider Liberty County home, and we are looking forward to our return for the reunion with great excitement,” said former 24th ID Chaplain Darrell Williams, who serves on the task force.
Why do soldiers go to war and then yearn to reunite with each other 25 years later? Perhaps it is best summed up in one word, “brotherhood,” as stated in the 2001 film and Mark Bowden novel “Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War.” “When I go home, people ask me, ‘Why do you do it? You some kind of war junkie?’ I won’t say a word. Why? They won’t understand. They won’t understand why we do it. They won’t understand it’s about the men next to you … and that’s it. That’s all it is.”